The City of Light

Jacob D'Ancona, Author, David Selbourne, Translator, Jacob, Author
Jacob D'Ancona, Author, David Selbourne, Translator, Jacob, Author Little Brown and Company $29.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-17353-7
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
Hardcover - 528 pages - 978-1-55972-523-1
Paperback - 576 pages - 978-0-8065-2463-4
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This 700-year-old chronicle of a journey to the Orient two years before Marco Polo's voyage first came to the attention of one-time Oxford don Selbourne (The Spirit of the Age) in 1990, wrapped in a piece of 17th-century silk and written in a 13th-century vernacular Italian, interspersed with Latin and Hebrew. It is the record of a trip to China by a pious, educated Jewish merchant, a journal kept secret for fear the Inquisition would find it heretical. Selbourne's lucid translation, with his engrossing commentary, relates how d'Ancona, with a large retinue and a wealth of merchandise for trade, traveled by boat and overland to China and back to Italy. Wherever he stopped, there was usually a Jewish community to offer hospitality and a temple for praying. D'Ancona's details of these flourishing Jewish communities are of much historical interest, as is his vivacious portrait of Zaitun--the Chinese ""city of light,"" a great coastal metropolis at that time, a ferment of political, economic and cultural activity that, in its wealth, sophistication and decadence, appears joltingly contemporary. Illustrations. (Oct.)
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